SPRINGFIELD — Since economic shutdowns began and COVID-19 death counts started to rise in March 2020, national unemployment rates have hovered at historically high numbers, stressing state unemployment systems left dealing with an unprecedented number of claims.

In Illinois, that’s led to a deficit in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund — or the pool of money used to sustain the social safety net — that could rise to $5 billion.

Stakeholders from both political parties, as well as business and labor groups, are now warning of “crippling” tax increases on businesses and cuts to unemployment benefits that could result if the ongoing deficit goes unaddressed for too long.

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